Thursday, November 02, 2017

Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage Magazine: "The Pro-Islamic West: Born 500 Years Ago"


RAYMOND IBRAHIM is a widely published author, public speaker, and Middle East and Islam specialist.  His books include The Al Qaeda Reader (Doubleday, 2007), Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (Regnery, 2013), and Sword and Scimitar: Thirteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West (to be released by Da Capo Press in Spring 2018).
Ibrahim’s writings, translations, and observations have appeared in a variety of publications, including the New York Times, CNN, LA Times, Fox News, Financial Times, Jerusalem Post, New York Times Syndicate, United Press International, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, and Weekly Standard; scholarly journals, including the Almanac of Islamism, Chronicle of Higher Education, Hoover Institution’s Strategika, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, and Middle East Review of International Affairs; and popular websites, such as American Thinker, the Blaze, Bloomberg, Breitbart, Christian Post, Daily Caller, FrontPage Magazine, Gatestone Institute, the Inquisitr, Jihad Watch, NewsMax, National Review Online, PJ Media, the UK’s Commentator, WND, and World Magazine. He has contributed chapters to several anthologies and been translated into dozens of languages.
Ibrahim guest lectures at universities, including the National Defense Intelligence College, briefs governmental agencies, such as U.S. Strategic Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and has testified before Congress regarding the conceptual failures that dominate American discourse concerning Islam and the worsening plight of Egypt’s Christian Copts. Among other media, he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, Blaze TV, CBN, and NPR; he has done hundreds of radio interviews and instructed two courses for Prager University, each of which has been viewed over a million times on YouTube.
Ibrahim’s dual-background—born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East—has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former. His interest in Islamic civilization was first piqued when he began visiting the Middle East as a child in the 1970s. Interacting and conversing with the locals throughout the decades has provided him with an intimate appreciation for that part of the world, complementing his academic training.
Raymond received his B.A. and M.A. (both in History, focusing on the ancient and medieval Near East, with dual-minors in Philosophy and Literature) from California State University, Fresno. There he studied closely with noted military-historian Victor Davis Hanson. He also took graduate courses at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies—including classes on the history, politics, and economics of the Arab world—and studied Medieval Islam and Semitic languages at Catholic University of America. His M.A. thesis examined an early military encounter between Islam and Byzantium based on arcane Arabic and Greek texts.
Ibrahim’s resume includes: serving as an Arabic language and regional specialist at the Near East Section of the Library of Congress, where he was often contacted by, and provided information to, defense and intelligence personnel involved in the fields of counterterrorism and area studies, as well as the Congressional Research Service; serving as associate director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia think tank; and serving as a CBN News analyst and contributor.
He resigned from all positions in order to focus exclusively on researching and writing, and is currently a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum, and a Hoover Institution Media Fellow (2013), among other titles and affiliations.


Revisiting one of the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation.

Five-hundred years ago yesterday, on October 31, 1517, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a German church, thereby launching what would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation.  Whatever else can be said of him, Luther unwittingly initiated something else that is often overlooked.  “The Reformation produced one logical if unexpected result,” explains European historian Franco Cardini: “a definite boost to the positive evaluation of Islam, and therefore to the birth and development of an often conventional and mannered pro-Islamic stance” in the West.
Thus, although Luther maintained the traditional Christian view of Islam—denouncing the Koran as a “cursed, shameful, desperate” book filled with “dreadful abominations”—he condemned the concept of crusading, which had been essential for the survival of some European Christians, such as those of Spain: since its conquest by Islam in the eighth century, the Iberian Peninsula had faced wave after wave of Islamic incursions emanating from North Africa (especially at the hands of the Almoravids and the Almohads, whose jihadi zeal and barbarous means far surpassed anything ISIS can come up with).  
Nor was Luther merely against crusading “over there” (e.g., to liberate the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, etc.). In 1517, the same year that he nailed his theses, history’s greatest jihadi empire—that of the Ottoman Turks—absorbed the vast domains of the Mameluke sultanate in the Middle East and North Africa and, having already conquered much of the Balkans, prepared to renew the jihad into the heart of Europe.  Against this, Luther originally preached passivity—going so far as to say that, although the Muslim sultan “rages most intensely by murdering Christians in the body … he, after all, does nothing by this but fill heaven with saints.”   When the Turks marched to and besieged the walls of Vienna in 1529, rebellious Lutheran soldiers were heard to cry out that the “Unbaptized Turk” (meaning the sultan) was preferable to the “Baptized Turk.”
By portraying the Catholic pope as more of an “Antichrist” figure than Europe’s hitherto traditional Antichrist figure, the Turkish sultan—an office held by Muslim leaders who had been responsible for the slaughter and enslavement of hundreds of thousands of Christians in the name of jihad—men such as Luther and John Calvin, who held that Islamic prophet Muhammad and the Pope were “the two horns of Antichrist,” ushered in a sort of relativism that prevails to this day in the West; one which instinctively cites (often distorted) episodes from Catholic history to relativize and minimize ongoing Muslim atrocities. 
To be sure, the Catholic Church responded with its own invective “and frequently tried to discredit Protestant doctrine by likening it to Islam—Muhammad was an early Protestant and the Protestants were latter day Saracens,” explains Bernard Lewis.  Cardini elaborates: 
The Reformation generated more vehement and coherent arguments between Christians, the ultimate effect of which was to favour the Muslims.  It became customary amongst Catholics and Protestants for each to censure the “vices” of the other’s religion and to emphasize that the infidel [Muslims] exemplified the corresponding “virtue,” which naturally would have been much better suited to the Christians….  In fact the arguments between Catholics and Protestants frequently led to a competition as to which of the two could hurt the adversary more by heaping praise upon the infidel.
All the while, Muslims sat back and laughed—to the exasperation of sensible men such as Erasmus: “While we have been endlessly fighting among ourselves,” argued the Renaissance humanist, “the Turks have vastly extended their empire or, rather, their reign of terror.”  Incidentally, of “Luther’s contention that those who make war on the Turks rebel against God, who is punishing our sins [Catholicism] through them [the Muslims],” Erasmus countered that “if it is not lawful to resist the Turks, because God is punishing the sins of his people through them, it is no more lawful to call in a doctor during illness, because God also sends diseases to purge his people of their sins.”

Be that as it may, what began with Luther was bequeathed to subsequent Protestant leaders.  This was only expected; as the early Protestants and Muslims had the same common enemy—Catholic Christendom, particularly in the guise of the Holy Roman Empire—the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” came into dramatic play.  By 1535, “It was one of the bitterest truths,” writes historian Roger Crowley, “that the Catholic King [Charles V] would spend more time, money, and energy fighting the French and the Protestants than he ever devoted to the war with [Sultan] Suleiman” (Little wonder many Islamic conquests of European territory occurred under the “Magnificent One’s” reign.)  Similarly, Queen Elizabeth I of England made common cause with the Muslim Barbary pirates—who eventually enslaved some 1.3 million Europeans, including not a few from Ireland and Iceland—against Catholic Spain, prompting that nation’s papal nuncio to lament that “there is no evil that is not devised by that woman, who, it is perfectly plain, succored Mulocco [Abd al-Malek] with arms, and especially with artillery.”
In 1683, when the Turks came again for Vienna—enslaving and eventually slaughtering some 30,000 Christians in the process—their chief non-Muslim allies were two Protestant counts: the Lutheran Hungarian, Imre Thokoly, and the Calvinist Transylvanian, Prince Apafi.  In fact, the Muslim pretext for marching onto Vienna was to provide military aid to Thokoly, who was then in rebellion against the Austrian Empire.   Telling fellow Muslim commanders that “they ought to take advantage of the disorders of the Christians by the siege of the place [Vienna], the conquest of which would assure that of all Hungary, and open ‘em a passage to the greatest victories,” Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa mobilized arguably the largest Muslim army ever to invade Europe.   Before setting off to the relief of Vienna, and cognizant of Thokoly’s mischievous role, the Polish king, John Sobieski, wrote to the latter “that if he burnt one straw in the territories of his allies, or in his own, he would go and burn him and all his family in his house.”
That the Protestant Reformation unwittingly benefited Islam should not be interpreted as an attack on the Reformation or a defense of Catholicism.  Nor does it say anything about the theological merits, or truths, of either.  (I am, for the record, neither Protestant nor Catholic, and don’t have a horse in the race, as it were.)    Rather, the point here is that the actions of fallible men, of both religious persuasions, had unforeseen consequences.  And, if the historic rifts within Christendom—beginning at Chalcedon in 451, when Orthodoxy (not Catholicism or Protestantism) broke apart—always worked to Islam’s advantage, it should come as no surprise that the greatest of all Christian sunderings also had the greatest impact. 
In short, “The Reformation produced one logical if unexpected result: a definite boost to the positive evaluation of Islam, and therefore to the birth and development of an often conventional and mannered pro-Islamic stance.”  This “mannered” and “pro-Islamic stance” persists and continues to haunt the West to this day.  After all, it’s not for nothing that naïve and favorable views of Islam—to say nothing of passive responses to Muslim aggression and an all-consuming fear of being seen as “crusading” against Islam—are especially ingrained in and compromise the security of historically Protestant nations, including the U.K., Scandinavia, Germany, Australia, and the U.S. 
Of course, that these views have less to do with anything intrinsic to Protestant theology and more to do with a number of historic forces that have culminated into a sort of uncritical or mindless tolerance for anything and everything in the West—including unabashed Islamic terrorism—is evident in one ironic fact: today it is the Catholic pope—a role traditionally filled by Islam’s greatest and most vociferous opponents—who exhibits an unparalleled determination to empower Muslims and whitewash the image of Islam.